More prayers for you on my Birthday

008

Today, I celebrate the anniversary of the day I arrived on this planet. Today I feel joy because: I am surrounded by a loving family, I am empowered by a loving God, I choose love as my focus and energy, and I embrace truth. justice and the American way ūüôā So here goes…

  1. I pray you be kind in thought, word and deed…the world is in desperate need of your kindness, make it your superpower.
  2. I pray for you to stand for truth in all that you do, especially when it may appear to be against your own interest, watch how it can transform that moment. In truth there is always greater freedom. Lies deteriorate God’s Kingdom in this world and we have the power to stop it.
  3. I pray you come to realize how important you are to the fabric of this world. Your golden thread holds many other threads in place to show and become an even greater beauty. Never underestimate God’s blueprint, every thread is counted.
  4. ¬†I pray that you release fear in your life. It is a source of animosity and judgment, and inhibits your ability to be all that God intends for you to be. Find comfort in knowing that when God is for you, nothing will come between you and God’s power.
  5. I pray your eyes are open to the wonder of God’s creation and that you can take precious moments to let the beauty of our world sink in and nourish your soul and¬† in so doing you recognize your own beauty.
  6. I pray you see clearly the impact you have on those around you and that your love, hope, faith, kindness and truth do influence and affect them. I pray that you’re open to receiving the same from them. I know sometimes its easier to give all those things out than receive them.
  7. I pray that you can ask for forgiveness as well as forgive others for any intended or unintended¬† hurts. Most importantly I pray that you forgive yourself. We are all imperfect and our journey on this earth isn’t about being perfect but growth.
  8. I pray that you find happiness and contentment in all you do, and if what you do doesn’t make you happy, I pray for the strength to find what does and do that.
  9. I pray that you find a way to laugh everyday, it will do your brain good!
  10. I pray that this next year we all find ways to rise above all the negativity and work together to build the Kingdom of God. And I pray we remember every day that all things are possible through God

For the sake of the few

I was reading a story in Genesis when the Lord has already decided that Abraham was to be the source of a great nation, and as he walks with him to check out the gravity of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, concerned of the imminent destruction of the two cities, wonders out loud to God and asks would he wipe away the innocent with the guilty. “what if there were 50 innocent people, would you wipe away the place rather than spare it for the fifty innocent?” God agrees to spare it for the sake of the 50. Abraham slowly whittles God down to only 10 people, and God agrees to spare the two cities for 10 innocents. Of course in the next story he sends angels to find the innocent, finds Lot and his wife and daughters and sends them away before God obliterates Sodom and Gomorrah…ouch.

In a time when corruption can seem so pervasive, when it appears that the good and innocent stand no chance against the evil in the world, I took up the notion to negotiate with God like my forefather Abraham did. In my prayer time, (which as an aside I actually visualize the conversation I’m having with God and am often surprised at what transpires…is it God talking? Not sure, but if I learn something I guess that’s what matters…so don’t judge) I asked God, “what of those of us who love you with all our hearts, minds and souls, and our neighbors as ourselves? Would you save this world for us or let us perish along with those who are evil?” To which God responded,

“You already have your salvation guaranteed into my kingdom, and not by your deeds but by sacrifice. As for this world, you have already been given all the necessary tools to keep this world thriving, what you do with them is entirely up to you.”

“What tools?” I asked. God responded bringing my attention to my bible which was open to the Gospels.

“It’s all there”

and then he pointed to my head and heart and replied

“and in here.”

What about all those who gather for worship? He answered gravely

“attendance at worship is for each individual, for their own sustenance…it is of no consequence to me. Love is all there is, and is the source of all that exists. It is neither restricted by doctrine or space.”

I replied, that I didn’t think the pope would be happy about that.

“Don’t underestimate my brother in Rome, he is working within a millennia of human drama. He understands that the foundation of my church resides in something far more substantial than rules and regulations.”

Not wanting to dwell on church dogma, I moved on.

So I asked him, “so what about prayer?” He pressed me further,

“What about it?”

I began to get that sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to like the answer, I responded, “when we pray to you for something why aren’t our prayers always answered?”

“I hear every one”, he replied, “but be careful, I answer in the course of things beyond your comprehension.”

I asked for greater understanding so God sighed and replied,

“I hear and answer all prayers, but not always in the way that you all want. The burden of omniscience is that I see beyond the moment into all future implications and interactions. Just because someone doesn’t get what they think they need or want in the moment doesn’t mean that I don’t love them or didn’t answer them. Alternatively, the burden of free will is that you can choose your own destiny and with that comes the consequences of choice, many of which aren’t always so obvious. Free will is a difficult concept, one can’t ask for freedom to choose their own destiny and then hide from it when it becomes something other than what they thought it would be, it gets too hard, or when they make a mess of things.  Additionally, I can’t just intervene whenever I want to, I need to be invited in as part of the equation. You must choose me in that moment to become involved and trust that I can help, that I will help, and have faith in the outcome. The hardest part for my children is to let go of control, and have faith in my answer, the kind of faith that knows that even the darkest moments can be  transformed into the greatest of lights. I will be always present to support, love and guide you, if that is your will. For it is my will that all my children thrive and fulfill their own destinies.”

The line about destiny spurred me on, “So what about our heavenly destiny?” To which God smiled, and said

“That is where the miracles happen. Your heavenly task is to do what I have created you to do, to use your gifts and don’t bury them and help others to do the same. Utilize all the lessons my Son gave you, take them to heart. If you do this, you can save your world many times over, all with your own personal flair and flavor.”

Worried, I asked, ‘What about those who choose evil instead?”

“I am the author of this play, My Son has already secured the ending. With free will, choice is always present. The balance may shift from time to time, but fear is fleeting and always offers an opportunity for champions of the light, remember, I know how the story ends, because I created you, I am your source, your home and your heart. That is why I say to you that my yoke is easy, my burden is light”

I suddenly felt sad, worried that I haven’t done enough with the gifts I’ve been given because I do feel worry and burdened a lot these days. He then got serious for a moment and said,

“And your heavenly task has nothing to do with a church, a philosophy, a country or a tribe. You asked me to open your eyes, and ears and so I did. You asked me for clarity and I gave it to you. Your path will be perfect and will lead you where you need to go not only because of your faith in me, but in yourself. No building or structure, occupation, job or livelihood will ever define or direct your destiny because it is who you are that is your gift, and everything that you do that is your destiny. Don’t complicate it dear child…I will guide you where you need to go, if you ask me to and I promise to hold your hand the whole time.”

I shook my head yes and took God’s hand and away we went.

Seeing Red

red

Yes, I know what that statement usually signifies, it signifies anger. Taken from what a bullfighter’s red cape triggers in the eyes of the bull…blind fury, it means feeling so much anger that it takes control of one’s actions. For me red signifies something different. Red is a color that also signifies love, and when I see red, that is what I see. Seeing love doesn’t preclude feeling anger, I think anger can be a powerful force for change. It is the feeling of anger that moves us to challenge discrimination and senseless violence, to fight those who reject liberty and freedom. Love of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the foundation of our country, and whenever that is attacked, we should feel anger, even if it stems from within our own borders. As the most powerful country in the world, we should feel anger at any force who would try and dismantle all the good that has been built and established by the brilliance of our forebears. The difference, though, between allowing the rage of anger to blind us into acting like a bull and wrecking havoc, and allowing the power of love to expand our sight into acting like one who is evolved enough to wield it, marks the distinction between animal and human. Choosing the former reduces us to raw instinctual response, choosing the latter is the reason God gave us dominion over the earth.

We are made in God’s image. And God is love. God made the earth and all living creatures in it and said that it is good. God, who breathed life into us out of love, gave us dominion over that creation. As people of faith…we should know this, we should abide by this. And we should fight for God’s creation, all of it. It is right that we should feel anger when that creation is threatened…but as people who were created in the image of love, this and only this is what that dominion should look like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated,  it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The power of love should be our strength, motivation and triumph. It is unlimited and unbounded in its capacity to protect and nourish God’s creations…all of them.

Let me conclude with a powerful phrase that has guided me always:

The day will come when, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire.

Tielhard de Chardin

The power of love is the only omniscience that can abide in us. Through the blood of Christ, we are perfected in the power of that love. Only we can choose to accept the power of love, or the power of anger. I choose love.

On Seeing the Glass Half Full

half-full-glassIt’s been awhile, and the reason is simple: life happens and sometimes life is hard. Events occur and people we love grow ill and the future teeters in a precarious balance that seems beyond everything but hope and prayer. The world is fraught with crisis and to weigh in demands I make a choice. Will I be a glass half empty person or a glass half full person. I choose to stand on the side of the half fullers. For me its not a Pollyanna thing but a hard stance in the face of negativity and dare you to defy my hope kind of thing. Ultimately, it is a requirement of my faith…for without it, I am just a seed on rocky ground. This world is so good, and so full of great things happening every day, and not the apocalyptic nightmare purported over the many means of media.

It’s also a science thing for me…in a quantum situation, i.e. light can exist as a particle or a wave depending on how its observed (note, prior to this double slit experiment, it had to be one or the other, light could not exist as both). Life can be good or bad, I as the observer determine which…and that determination matters more than anything. I can affect an outcome through faith, hope and love. Words matter, telling the truth matters, prayer matters, looking to the future no matter how daunting with God, in whatever form, augmenting our weakness with deep abiding love and strength matters. It ultimately distinguishes who gets up and moves forward.

For you glass half empties…I offer you my prayer to learn to see with hopeful eyes

 

Listen

When there are no words, I am called to listen. This week I listened to stories of love and loss, hardship and unexpected graciousness, and I felt sadness but also hope. I also listened to stories of anger, bias, ill informed and ignorant claims about “what really happened,” questions about character and worth and I felt despair but also deep anger. I heard people speak of those participants in the horrors of Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas with deep love about those who were lost. I listened to my pastor speak about a phrase from Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I listened to my son, impressed by Jane Elliot’s ground breaking, “blue eyed, brown eyed” experiment in the 1960’s, speak with laser accuracy about racism. I listened to social media friends talk about white privilege and black lives matter and knew that I could never understand with any depth what people of color go through in this country. I listened to friends in law enforcement and blue lives matter and the fear that follows them each and every day, and yet work with deep honor and pride as well. I listened to a mother with a biracial child speak about the subtle and not so subtle ways racism affects her daughter. I listened to a story about a woman who was able to comfort a frightened Muslim grandmother who was afraid at an airport in the most beautiful and simplest way. I listened to people effortlessly bash our president with unmitigated hatred after, what I thought was one of the most beautiful memorial speeches ever, he spoke in Dallas. I listened with even more sadness when I heard the news of another attack in France.

It is a disturbing point of tension, caught in the middle unable to say anything that would begin to change another’s mind or heart. To hear so many perspectives that seemed to speak over each other, cancel each other out or in anonymous condemnation made me want to stop listening. So¬†I sat in silence and remembered the words of Isaiah when he heard God in a whisper. And in the quiet of those moments I could feel God present in my struggle, and could hear God in a whisper, and he asked me to magnify my struggle as much as I could and think of how much bigger my struggle could be…and he told me even then I am there. He is present in every place where there is crisis, even in my small and seemingly insignificant one. I listened to God and realized that we haven’t really been listening to him when he said that nothing could separate us from his love. When we listen, we can hear God through each other. I told God that I wanted to be the seed that was planted deep and not on shallow, rocky, or thorny ground. And then I listened to the words of Christ who said that I need only love the Lord my God with my heart, mind and soul, and my neighbor as my self. And the way to do that was to see Christ in them, understand them by walking a mile in their shoes, and work with them to become the Body of Christ. I am a holder of his Grace, I have no need to fear, and yet I do. I fear the lies that are being spread, because we don’t want to listen to painful truths. I fear that the Devil is craftier than I ever knew in eliciting strife and discord, and people are buying it hook, line and sinker, under the guise of faith, patriotism and righteousness.

So before you plant your feet too firmly, take a walk to the other side, and listen. You may see things differently.

 

 

Beauty

cropped-cropped-cropped-gods-sunset.jpgI have been stumped on this one for days. My commitment to clarity has found fault in every attempt at bringing forward a response to the private sadness-es extended to me, the brokenness, and the unbearable burden of living in the skin that they’re in. Be it stress, self loathing, anxiety about the future, never fitting in…the list goes on and goes deep. I could write about societies skewed views on beauty, weight, identity, intelligence, gender, etc. but so many have done a better job at it…and I continued to feel like there was an idea, a word, a first step just outside my consciousness that others hadn’t addressed, that I could create a different context for. Then, this morning it came to me…Job.

While perusing the news and social media, I came across a post that made my blood boil about defining “who and what” is made in God’s eyes. In general, a pastor went on about who God intended men and women to be, which seemed completely contrary to everything I have ever understood about God. It was that moment when Job, in the Wisdom books of ¬†the Old Testament, popped into my head. Here is a primer: Job has a wonderful life in every respect. God is reveling in how faithful he is, and the Devil speaks up and says, “well, sure he is…he has everything. Take it all away and he won’t be so faithful.” To which God replies emphatically, “Go ahead, take away all that he has, but do not harm him” The devil takes up this wager and takes everything and makes his life unbearable. Horrors unimaginable happen to him and throughout the story, Job’s friends and even his wife try to convince him that he had to have done something wrong to have received God’s wrath. Job wishes he had never been born, demanding answers from God. Then a man who claims to know God’s mind instructs Job in what he should do to get back in God’s graces. God has finally enough of people bombarding Job their opinions and claiming to know his mind. He goes on a long diatribe that begins like this:

Then the Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said:Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers! Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding? Who determined its size, do you know? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone? ¬†While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the children of God shouted for joy? And who shut within the doors, the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, And said “Thus far shall you come, but no further, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown dawn its place? For taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are taken from its surface?…….

 

God goes on for pages asking questions that no one could know the answer to until Job finally responds:

Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth…I know you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I have heard you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.

God then sees that Job has learned and repented, and restores all his blessings.

What strikes me most in this time, with this old and wise story is how often I hear men and women preach about what is in the mind of God. I wish God would come down and say to them as clearly as he did in that ancient story, that unless you can answer the litany of questions that I posed to Job, don’t speak as an authority of what is in my mind! At 56 years old, I am still trying to figure that out, through many trials and errors. The arrogance of the judgments made in the name of God make me physically ill. But that doesn’t mean we can have no understanding at all, we have a history of faith to pull from. First and foremost, though, I think the place to start is to learn to see and appreciate the beauty that he created, including the beauty that is each and every one of us. If we can’t start there, with what is right in front of our eyes, then we can’t begin to understand the masterful construction of God in anything else. Seeing beauty as God does, counter intuitively must begin through our own eyes, the created, at our own reflection. Until that happens, any beauty we think we see or strive for out in the world is nothing but an illusion to try to become something other than what we are at this moment, which is loved by an omnipotent and magnificent God. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t take care of and nurture the beauty that we are, it just means we accept and celebrate the blueprint…which can include any amount of differentiation, like¬†being¬†born with the brain of one gender into the body of another gender. It is expressing that blueprint with each individual’s best effort and not defaming it in any way, regardless of the challenges, that we acknowledge the brilliance of God. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if each of us could just accept that God made us exactly the way we are for a reason and trusted us to do the best we can with what we have.

When an individual or group condemns one of God’s creations, be it gender, or size, or ethnicity, or class, it is also how we can know with surety that someone does indeed NOT speak God’s mind. There are no mistakes. When anyone says, “this creation is an abomination”, or denies the beauty of it, they move further away from understanding God. The New Testament is full of opportunities to see and hear things in a new way, the way God intended. When any person tried to trap Jesus into condemning anyone, he refused and usually threw the judgement back at the accuser, because all are welcome into God’s kingdom.. We need to be more like Job, recognizing our smallness compared to God, and admit that there is just too much out there that we cannot know, and most importantly humbly trust¬†in God even though it might be beyond our understanding.

 

IBS of the Soul

broken crossIt is a slippery slope when science modifies nature without regard for the consequences. As uncomfortable as it is talking about the mess we’ve made with our foodstuffs it pales in comparison to what humanity has done with the scripture that is¬†meant to save the world. While I realize that the words of Jesus are subject to interpretation, like our modern made food stuffs, if we aren’t careful the words can be compromised. The torture for me is trying to understand and embrace the real truth. How can I have a better handle on the teachings of Jesus than anyone else? I’m just a person with a singular perspective. Yes, I have a degree in theology, I have devoted much of my life in the service of Christ and yet I have no greater claim on truth than anyone else who shares in the gift of grace. So here is my take. While it took me awhile to realize that the bread I was eating was poisoning and being rejected by my body, so it is with my soul rejecting some of what is being preached as the Word of God and not in the way that the Gospel challenges us and makes us uncomfortable to become better Christians, but more visceral. Like the body’s rejection of manufactured foods, manufactured faith is just as lethal. I’m speaking about the kind of faith that may taste good, but really isn’t good for you.

After writing and then deleting the start of this paragraph about 50 times, once again I have accept the fact that I may sound self-righteous and a bit arrogant…but there is so much violence and hatred even among Christians, that I just can’t stand it anymore. I think of it like this: the primary focus of our faith shouldn’t be on weaponizing it to keep people out, or beating down Satan in the way of pointing the finger at the evil of the moment. For the love of all that is Holy, people! Jesus fought that fight, so we don’t have to. Our only job….let me say that again, OUR ONLY JOB is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS JESUS LOVED US. Love feeds the soul and makes it stronger. Hatred, judgement, fear, anger, self-righteousness emaciates the soul and makes it weak.

Just think about it for a moment. Is the Body of Christ alive and well? Does it consist of only what you have a taste for?¬†Scripture, like life, can’t be rewritten to appeal to the crazy pace and affluence of modern living. Our bodies become stronger when we exercise and put forth hard effort, even when it’s uncomfortable. Our immune systems become stronger when they are put to work naturally to fight off illness, and sometimes that means dealing with sickness or physical challenges. Our souls, demand the same kind of workout. Being a Christian isn’t always about consuming things that taste good, sometimes we just can’t eat candy or cake…we need vegetables¬†and protein.

The Word of God, is Gods and when the Word is used to serve only individual purpose we poison them. In the end, the strength of the soul will be defined by how well we can love one another…of that I am sure.

Magical Thinking

magical thinkingBelieving in the causal relationship between actions and events that can’t be justified simply by reason and observation is a tripping point for many who have a hard time embracing a life rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t. Not because I choose to believe in magic, but because I believe that there is so much more that exists beyond human limitation and comprehension. For me to believe that the vastness of the universe is limited to the four dimensions of space and time simply because that is all the human mind has evolved to, as yet, is just as absurd. There is plenty of science out there with feasible theories that speak of multiple dimensions…and I’m ok with that too.

My point is that suspending my limitations for a moment, and trusting that there is an omniscience that holds us in dear regard, is as feasible as the probability that there are dimensions beyond the four we experience as science suggests. It is as simple as that, in my mind. When I look around at the insanity going on in the world today, mostly in my own country, with gun violence, racism, and (true to the promise I made at the beginning of the year to speak without filters), idiots like Donald Trump running for president, who is more a candidate for magical thinking that anyone with religious belief (and if there is anyone out there reading this who actually thinks the Donald has a real place in this election, I will pray for you). Why is it any less reasonable to believe in God, than America being the home of the free and the brave? Contrary to what you might think, there is more reasonable evidence of God in the world than America being reasonable and brave.

Hold on, before you freak out…because God only knows a true American would never, could never criticize their birth place. America will never be the country it is touted to be, when the freedom to carry a gun, unhindered by any rules outweighs the ability for any citizen to live free. It isn’t a left-wing, liberal notion to believe that the gun violence in this country has gotten out of hand…it is just the opposite, it is reasonable and observable. It isn’t a marker of bravery to hold onto a weapon for fear that someone is out to get you, just the opposite. Living in fear certainly isn’t living free. A true example of magical thinking is the belief that a gun will keep anyone safe from the “bad guy” often portrayed as a person of color, a different sexual orientation, a different ethnicity. And it is just as magical to think that those shallow distinctions of race, color and sexual orientation are an inherent threat to anyone’s freedom. Our own violence, lack of reason and false observations created the present environment. And only until and when we can embrace something more than can be reasonably seen and understood by our own limitations, the violence, the hatred and the absurdity will continue. I, for one, can’t let that happen. While my belief that grace has freed me from sin instills a deep hope for the future of humanity, it hasn’t freed any of us from the responsibility to stop the future sin. Let’s leave the magical thinking to Donald Trump and focus on the kind of leadership that actually has the courage to see the problem and fix it.

Darkest Before the Dawn

he is risenThe pinnacle of our church year is Easter Sunday when after Lenten days of fasting we can shout, “Alleluia, He is Risen” and truly celebrate the joy of Jesus’ great sacrifice. ¬†For those of us today, though, it’s all hind sight. ¬†We already knew what was coming, we read the end of the book. Think for a moment what it was like for the disciples and the rest of those who Jesus loved (namely the women) between the last supper and that fate filled Sunday morning. ¬†How dark, sad and lonely must their thoughts have been. ¬†They weren’t waiting with bated breath outside the tomb for Jesus resurrection, no, they were hiding in secret, in a room, afraid for their lives.

I’ve always wondered about those dark three days, when their faith was put to the ultimate test. Did they suffer the doubt and shame of not saving their friend, or was it anger that he wouldn’t save himself, or perhaps grief that what they had believed for three years was a pipe dream, a fairy tale? ¬†When it came right down to it did they really believe that he accomplished what he came for? ¬†All those months of witnessing miracles and spell binding sermons and now this? ¬†It must have been torture for them, this dark night of the soul, especially since they actually lived with Jesus every day and believed completely that he was the Son of God. ¬†But what about the rest of us? ¬†We have the easy part, we get to celebrate the resurrection year after year. And why I must extend this great challenge: how are we any better than those men hiding in a secret room?

While I don’t want to take away the power of the resurrection, I am amazed at how many are stuck in the darkness. ¬†He is risen, the veil of the sanctuary torn, the dead raised, and the gates of hell broken, all as our heritage tells us and yet more than 2000 years later we still live in fear. ¬†We, who know the end of the story and filled with His grace still persist in living lives where judgement reigns in the forefront rather than love, and condemnation rather than celebration. ¬†Remember these words from Matthew when he spoke to his disciples: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. ¬†And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

He is with us. ¬†I truly believe that if everyone really believed those words, we would embrace everyone with love, because He is with us in every action. ¬†That which you do to the least of them, you do to me, Jesus said that, not me. ¬†You can’t make disciples of nations by condemning them…that is the darkness of the room talking, not one who has brought us into the light of His new day.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

smokeSome of the most talented and successful people I know don’t have a college degree…a testament to hard work,innovation and blazing new and unforged territories. ¬†For what its worth, I commend you, you stand as an inspiration to us all. ¬†And yet, (I’ll bet you knew it was coming), some of the most foolish, ignorant, arrogant and single-minded people I know don’t have a college degree either. ¬†But wait! ¬†Some of the most talented and successful people I know do have a college degree and the EXACT same things, both good and bad, could be said about all of them too. ¬†So, do we rally up all the foolish, ignorant, and single-minded people and shove them all into a room somewhere, lock them up and throw away the key? ¬†Oh, if only it could be that easy. ¬†My mission is to blow the smoke out of your eyes and transform those who give the formally trained and unformally trained a bad rap.

I have listened to a lot of people tell their tales….what can I say, I’m the kind of person people tell their shit to, whether I want to listen or not (and that is an indictment about me, not necessarily them). ¬†I think there is a pattern to where the road diverges between the two aforementioned groups. ¬†From the broadest perspective, success is a collaborative affair. ¬†It relies on embracing our personal talents, and mastering a sense of cooperation with others to achieve success with that talent, which could be anything from success financially, in service, gaining knowledge, artistic expression, creating a family, etc. None of us are an island…we need others to get ahead.

While not everyone has access to the same amount of help, which is a challenge in a country of dreams that needs to be continually improved upon, I am not talking about general inequity right now. ¬†That is a hornet’s nest for another day. ¬†What I do want to address is the fundamental difference between how people approach success. ¬†I think that those who, at most, do nothing to help use their talents along the way or, at least, use their talent without the same sense of extending help to another are doomed to fail. ¬†It is as simple as that. ¬†Jesus tells a parable about a master going on a journey and distributing talents each according to their ability. ¬†The first two took their talents and made good use of them by working with others and successfully doubling their talent. ¬†The third, who was afraid, feared the success of his master and felt he couldn’t do the same, buried his in the ground. His punishment was harsh, and his talent taken away and split between the other two.

The success isn’t in the amount of ¬†money though. The subtlety of two phrases in the parable is often missed. First: the master entrusted his servants with his possessions, each according to his ability. ¬†Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all just understood that each of us have different abilities and that is the way that things should be? ¬†The success of two of the servants in the eyes of the master had nothing to do with the amount of the end result, but simply that they went out and did something to expand it. Second, was this: the master rewarded them with more responsiblity, not money, but responsibility. ¬†I truly wish our world worked that way. ¬†But no, there are too many people who are focused on who got what in the first place and believe what they make of their talent is theirs alone, or do nothing with what they are given. ¬†Success results in more responsiblity first, then more riches.

The journey to success is different for everyone. ¬†I do know this, however, minimizing someone’s talents because they may be different from yours (and it goes both ways, for those with a greater ability to those with lesser) you will never be successful in my book. Because success is rewarded with an even greater responsibility and how one proceeds after that. I measure success by how they handle the responsibility. ¬†There are no short cuts, no pretense…Jesus goes on to say a lot about responsiblity after this parable…not only does he celebrate those who multiply their talents, he describes how the responsiblity is measured when the Son of Man comes and separates those who inherit and those who don’t. ¬†Those who achieve success is based on this:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. ¬†Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ ¬†and the king will say to them in reply: ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these of mine, you did for me'”

I implore all of you, stop polarizing talents minimizing them and focus on your own. ¬†Your success won’t be defined by how much money you make off of them, but what you do with it. ¬†God sees talent much differently than our world and politicians do. Just remember that.

Pretty Little Liars

the open bibleI often wonder if people actually read the same scripture that I do. ¬†SERIOUSLY, I really wonder that. ¬†I am conflicted and challenged every day by my weakness when I read the words of Jesus. I remember the day when my heart broke in a vision of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane¬†extending his hand to me and saying it is for you that I will make this sacrifice and felt first, the horrible guilt and then an overwhelming love fill me up. ¬†It is because of that moment that I resist the impulse to lower myself to the level of those pretty little liars out there who would have you believe that 1.6 billion people are extensions of the devil, are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ, and that America is synonymous with the chosen people. ¬†I don’t want to be lectured by smug individuals who turn the challenge on its head and point to the atrocities that are befalling innocent people right now, and how we must destroy them. ¬†History has told us many a woeful tale of this same story. ¬†Christians destroyed by Rome, Jews destroyed by Christians (and yes, we had our crazy factions too), women being burned as witches, etc. the list goes on. ¬†And as the saying by Edmund Burke goes: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”

So, to those of you who are so confident that you know the mind of God and believe anyone who disagrees with you be damned…see how successfully you live and breathe these words:

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. ¬†Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. ¬†Wo to you when all speak well of you for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. ¬†But I say to you who¬†hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ¬†To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. ¬†Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. ¬†Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ¬†For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you. ¬†Even sinners love those who love them” ¬†Luke 6:24-32

I am angry because these words convict me every day to be a greater person and have faith that Jesus knew what he was talking about, and yet I don’t see a lot of support for this notion right now. ¬†As hard as it is to look at the atrocities that are being perpetuated every day and have faith that the above formula is the greater course, it does revolve back to that great sacrifice of Jesus. ¬†Jesus had faith in me, so I must have faith in him…it is really as simple as that. ¬†When I face the banal every day workings of life, where I get to practice and master on an inane level the challenges listed above, I know that then and only then will my discipleship be honed and perfected. ¬†And deep in the simplicity of everyday life, my greatest fear is coming to pass…that those pretty little liars out there are corrupting the gospel, perverting it and twisting it to serve another master, one who Jesus warns us of…the one who can entice us, utilize our fears to their advantage and sway us away from the kind of love God first gave us. ¬†It is a master who would have us build a cocoon of our own self-righteousness, and prejudice, who will ply us with a twisted appreciation of what exactly grace will do which is to deny those we are commanded to love and give entry to only those who are deemed worthy, and condemn any who would disagree.

The central point of the gospel is that the invitation is extended to us all….including those 1.6 billion people out there who only see hateful rejection, persecution and judgement. The parable Jesus told of the great banquet in Luke 14:15-24 reminds us that those who find excuses not to come to his table will be shut out. Many have accepted the invitation in words, but let me remind you, Jesus never said that they will know you are my disciple by telling people that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour; he said they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another, not judge, not condemn, not kill, not run in fear from…but how you love them, which means actually showing up at his table and not a facsimile of one you like better. ¬†So where do you put your faith; do you put your faith in the words above, or those words that perpetuate the rancor, that undermine leadership, that feed self-righteousness. that are smug in their conviction that only one ideology rings true. ¬†It is my prayer that all of us, during this Lenten season, ask this question: Do they know I am a follower of Jesus by how well I love others.

They Will Know That You Are Christains By Our Love

fear-notBeing ready to charge forth is how I always want to portray myself…but I am more a compilation of pacing, hyperventilation, tears, ending in quiet resolve. ¬†I am aware of what I have to say, no less committed to continue on the path that I see so clearly, shaking but never wavering. ¬†It just isn’t easy for me. ¬†On that note, I am provoked by the faceless ugliness of social media and the fearful nature of information, convoluted to champion ideological superiority and then weaponizing it as a way to justify a belief and behavior that circumvents the gospel, and yes I did say circumvent…because Jesus could never, would never stand for it…the finger pointing and the blame, the violent solutions and polarization of the world and its people. In John 13:13, Jesus lays out the model of behavior he expects of his disciples:

You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ and rightly so for indeed I am. ¬†If I, therefore, the master and the teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. ¬†I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. ¬†Amen, amen I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. ¬†If you understand this, blessed are you because of it.

He goes on to say in John 13:34,

I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

There will be those who will pick through scripture to find ways around this to justify their hatred of those who are the momentary evil of day…whether it is a political party, or those who terrorize in the name of their superiority. ¬†We, as Christians, are not allowed that weakness. ¬†That is what Jesus meant when he said:

You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ ¬†But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…

There are plenty of places to find what love looks like….which is where everyone should start. ¬†More importantly, we have to look at what drives us away from love, which drives us to propagate gossip and innuendo as fast as wild-fire. It is fear. ¬†It is fear. ¬†It is fear. ¬†It. Is. Fear. ¬†How can that be?, we who wear the gift of grace?, we who are promised that anything we ask for in prayer, with faith will be given, we who are¬†commanded not to worry because if God clothes¬†the world in such splendor, how much more does he have in store for us, so little in our faith? We fear because we have been lulled into the illusion that evil has the greater edge, that it can defeat us, and the greatest illusion of all, that the gates of hell haven’t already been shattered by Jesus death and resurrection. ¬†On the night he was betrayed he rebuked a disciple who burnished the sword:

Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  Do you not think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?  Then how would scripture be fulfilled which say this must come to pass in this way?

That is the question isn’t it? ¬†How will our fate, laid out in scripure be fulfilled? ¬†Could God swoop down and finish the job? ¬†Or does he know that the sacrifice of his son has given us the necessary tools to be our own champions? 1John 4: lays it out plainly:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because He first loved us.

Love is what must be¬†our core. ¬†It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but at any moment in time we can pray to God to augment our imperfect hearts with His perfect love, or we can give into fear in all its seeming righteousness, in its promise of vengeance, its illusion of creating peace and safety. ¬†Violence will never be the answer; hatred exists as a bi-product of fear. ¬†But that doesn’t mean I am naive, either. ¬†I don’t condemn armies who fight for a cause…one of the conundrums of being human, I guess. ¬†Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. ¬†He also told us that we couldn’t serve two masters, and how narrow the road to righteousness really is. But certainly, the task at hand is to focus on how others will see us and know that we are his disciples…they will know us by how we love one another.

525,600 Minutes and So Much More

save our starving children 1 save our starving children 2 stave our starving children 3Numbers are generally not my forte, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them, or understand their significance in our lives. ¬†There is a great song lyric from the song, “Seasons of Love”, from the musical “Rent’ that I love: 525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year.” ¬†This weekend, working at a “Feed My Starving Children” event at Osceola High School, less than 250 high school students, faculty, and a handful of parents, assembled 300,000 meals. That means 822 children will be fed for a year, 432,043,200 precious minutes of life sustained and celebrated. Actually that last number gave me goose bumps because 432 is a sacred number, (for my science and religion students, Joseph Campbell pointed out the significance of this number), as well as the square root of the speed of light, and how the golden mean is exemplified in sound (432Hz tuning). ¬†And this very number is¬†repeated twice in those precious minutes we helped save this past weekend!

I’ve been focusing on these words of Jesus this year, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” and “Every good tree bears good fruit.” This event was the perfect, shining, harmonic example of everything Jesus was talking about. ¬†By the hands of the few, many are¬†saved. ¬†So many good trees, bearing good fruit. ¬†There is nothing more powerful than that. ¬†It was done with joy, celebration and mad organization by the staff of “Feed My Starving Children” and Joel and Heidi Hazzard who sponsored the event. Duplicating loaves and fishes and even moving mountains doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply joining together and working together can accomplish amazing things. Congress could learn a lot from these young people, who came together from all different social groups to work in concert together and accomplish an amazing goal. ¬†I’ve always said the most extraordinary things are accomplished by ordinary (and yet amazing) people.

Ask and Receive

law and prophetsI’ve always found comfort in these particular words of Jesus: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” ¬†And yet…really? my bank account hasn’t changed. ¬†Let’s go back and¬†read verses preceding the one¬†I just¬†mentioned. They are an admonition against judgement and pointing out the flaws in others while unable to see our own. ¬†The offer of receiving whatever we ask for comes only after we stop our judgy behavior and look at our own flaws first and foremost. ¬†While that may seem depressing, Jesus doesn’t leave us wallowing in our wicked imperfections…he says, “which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? ¬†If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” ¬†While he chastises our behavior, it still won’t prohibit God from answering our prayers.

Of course there are qualifications…God responds to our requests with “good things” ¬†God would never give us anything harmful. ¬†I suppose asking for something bad would never qualify. ¬†So how then, do we know what good is? ¬†What follows gives us a clue. ¬†Jesus highlights the golden rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” ¬†He also encourages us to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, and not the wide and easy gate that many will follow to destruction. He warns of false prophets whom we will only know by the fruits they bear, followed immediately by “for a rotten tree can never bear good fruit”. ¬†The lines are drawn clear: good tree, good fruit…bad tree no fruit. Goodness can only be known by good fruit.

So what is good fruit? ¬†Is it success, wealth, fame, popularity, prowess or power? ¬†I suppose it all goes back to what each of us sees when we pull that humongous plank out or our eye. We can never see goodness while our vision is clouded; there are too many false prophets out there that exist in obscured vision to lead us astray. ¬†Only goodness can perpetuate goodness, rotten trees never can…and we all know what happens to trees that bear no fruit whatsoever (remember the fig tree). ¬†It doesn’t need to be complicated, we simply start by not judging and pointing out the flaws in others before we can even see our own, treat others exactly how we want to be treated, pray to god in secret with faith, and he will respond with goodness, from which we continue to bear good fruit. ¬†Pretty much sums it all up.

Waiting at the Well

woman at the wellIn the Gospel of John, Jesus functionally begins his ministry at a Samaritan well talking to a woman. ¬†I say he functionally began his ministry, because he had just left the desert from being baptized by John the Baptist. ¬†So what a place to start:¬†not only¬†with a woman, but a Samaritan woman, and even more so, a Samaritan woman of ill repute. ¬†What makes this particular event so powerful is that just prior to this conversation in the previous chapter comes the famous line he spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” ¬†We never get Nicodemus immediate response, but from Jesus we get an inclination that he wasn’t completely sold on the idea: Jesus makes it clear that those who prefer the cloak of darkness and fear exposure of their wickedness are already condemned. So after journeying to Samaria, while his disciples had gone to look for food, he stopped for a drink of water. ¬†What followed, (I will make you read it for yourself) was nothing short of remarkable…especially given the timing.

I think it is remarkable because he not only spoke to this woman of ill repute, but he talked to her as if she were anyone else of equal value. ¬†She was the first person who, when told he was the Messiah, believed him right then and there. (Nicodemus was most probably still pondering the idea and the disciples were amazed he was talking to a woman and concluded he simply needed to eat something). You see this is of utmost importance because he knew all about her disreputable past, appreciated her telling the truth, and then offered her everything, because she, like all those who came after her, were in need of and wanted everything he offered. ¬†She wasn’t afraid of the truth, of being exposed. ¬†And yet I still wondered, why her? ¬†Jesus must have recognized a remarkable quality in her, because even though she was a woman of ill repute, when she went back into the village saying, “He told me everything I have ever done, could he be the Messiah?” they actually came. ¬†She wasn’t afraid of her wickedness, like perhaps many of those who feared Jesus. She wanted the light.

What would his ministry have looked like had Nicodemus believed him right away instead of perhaps falling into his fear of exposure. ¬†What if it was he who ran and said to the people “I have met the Son of man who will bring us eternal life” ¬†maybe Jesus whole ministry would have transpired differently. ¬†The Samaritan woman stood in truth when¬†exposed and that made all the difference in the world.

Of Consequence and Consequences

Jesus and the sanhedrinI’ve embraced that breaking out in a cold sweat will be the new normal as I write this first post for the new year. ¬†After the title popped into my head I knew I needed to write before I lost my nerve. ¬†Here goes.

Every person on this earth is of consequence. ¬†Everyone. ¬†God’s plan for the world is weakened, altered whenever we lose sight of this most fundamental idea; we are in this together. ¬†How do I know this? ¬†Just read the Bible, actually most Holy Scriptures. ¬†Since I am a Christian, this is how I know this. ¬†In Jesus’ wheelhouse of people, he spent the majority of his time with the least desirable, most despised, greatest sinners…etc. ¬†He chose simple fishermen for his disciples, and often the oddest of people to dine with and talk to. ¬†His reach went beyond the limitations of class, ethnicity, religion and politics; everyone mattered. ¬†Everyone deserved to hear his message ¬†He especially avoided those who had held the prestige of class and distinction….because they had forgotten who God was, and how to build up His Kingdom.

I don’t think it is difficult to draw a parallel to modern culture. ¬†We have become as exclusive, judgmental, bigoted and narrow-minded as those who were threatened by Jesus in his day. ¬†We have forgotten who God is and how to build up His Kingdom. ¬†To twist the words of Jesus to exclude and redefine who is acceptable to God is nothing short of blasphemy. ¬†So don’t. ¬†God celebrates every one of us, he doesn’t make mistakes. ¬†I hope that isn’t a hard pill to swallow, because to each of you who really hates a section of the population for whatever reason…stop, because they are precious in God’s eyes.

Ouch, I know that can be harsh. ¬†So I have to see preciousness in the people who literally make my skin crawl? Yes. ¬†That doesn’t mean that we all go hug a random criminal or (insert name of the faction of the population you hate the most). ¬†So here is where I move beyond “of consequence” and on to consequences. ¬†Saying the phrase, “of consequence” and believing it is hard. ¬†Most people I know are insecure and struggle, in a variety of ways, with low self esteem…that includes those who appear √ľber confident and present the illusion to the world that their shit doesn’t stink. ¬†It is what drives the angry divisive, bullying behavior of people today. ¬†Those who really believe they are precious, essential, loved and important just don’t behave that way. ¬†I also think it is why people refuse to accept responsibility for their own choices, and how that is manifested, I suppose, is different for each person. ¬†For example, I think the one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Jesus so much is that he took their power over the people away. ¬†If Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting so long for, they were no longer formidable. ¬†Their self-worth depended on knowing more, having more power, the exclusivity of being the God’s chosen people, rendering them more important that everyone else. ¬†Jesus virtually pulled the rug out from under their belief of who the Messiah would be, not a mighty King, but a loving servant. ¬†That could not have set well. ¬†They were precious in God’s eyes and yet there were dire consequences of what they did. ¬†How are we supposed to love that?

Being “of consequence” will never render the “consequences” of any our actions in the world null and void. ¬†We all live by the choices we make and often suffer the fallout of choices others make. ¬†We have to hold others accountable, but only in a way that offers the possibility of being “of consequence” again. ¬†I’m not naive, the world has some pretty evil stuff going on. ¬†But remember that we are not alone, God is truly with us and for us…all of us. ¬†And until we can believe that we are all precious in His sight, even though we all sin, we have to stop throwing stones, the kind that destroy and not build up. ¬†We have to stop blaming the government, the 1%, the poor, ethnicity, ideology… the list goes on and on. ¬† Jesus said, that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. ¬†Holding ourselves and others accountable while still¬†seeing the worth in all sinners is how we grow and how we grow to understand God. ¬†I just want people to understand that the kind of choices¬†we make¬†change when we look in the mirror and believe that the person who is looking back matters, is important, and is an expression of God’s great creative mind. ¬†Because if you can’t see God’s creation when you look in the mirror, you won’t be able to see it in others either.

 

 

Dancing Naked before the Lord

David Dancing before the LordSome of you have heard this story, but it bears repeating for the sake of context…When I was getting my degree in Theology, my professor asked the class to pick a verse in scripture that summed up our faith. After much thought, I chose King David dancing naked with abandon before the ark of the covenant. At first, my professor was offended, until I explained that my faith had always been stripped down, joyful and with abandonment. It’s true. Some people are good at math, or art, or sports… Faith has always been easy for me. Inside my head, belief and understanding God has always been easy and obvious…that doesn’t mean that I always understood the practical implementation of it in the world, or that it would be appreciated. Like King David would show us, even those anointed by God are flawed, because we are human. Therein lies the rub, how do the faithful stand with authority in the face of such flaws? It’s easy to be good at math and prove it on a test. But faith? I shake my head writing it, because there really isn’t any good way to prove it, beyond being a saint (which I am SO not)and not look like a total douche. I never felt the need to prove my expertise, and quite often exercise it. And anyway, why is it important?

Last year, my focus for 2014 was to walk forward on an open road, to take God at His word that he has something in mind specifically for me. If He would rid my life of illusion and pretense then I would walk forward without question, wherever that may lead. As it usually is with those kinds of promises, I had no fucking (excuse the expletive, it is part of letting go of pretense) idea what would entail. Once¬†stripped of illusion, it is a bit frightening to realize that most of the world’s population thrives on it…including those anointed by God (and yes, I include myself). So here I am at the end of a year of walking, standing with deep fear and trepidation with the knowledge that regarding faith and God, we have so obviously gotten almost everything wrong…like 2 + 2 = 5 wrong. I’ve known it for a while, and it has slowly been eating away at me. My response to God was this: What the hell am I supposed to do with this…AND more importantly why me? I am of no consequence…people will laugh at me, especially those who know me. To which God responded, all of my children are of consequence, you said you would walk wherever I lead…and this is where I lead. ¬†So stop walking and keep quiet, or keep moving and start talking. So here I am, standing naked and afraid and feeling charged to explain what God is all about, ready to pee my pants, except I am not wearing any. ¬†And then I remembered King David dancing naked. ¬†I want that back…not the naked part, the with joyful abandoned part.

So, before I start sharing my insights (it took me ten minutes to even come up with a noun to describe it). ¬†I’m going to relearn to dance. ¬†To dance with joyful abandon that God graced me with a gift I didn’t have to pay for, and I am pretty stoked about that.

Things that I must say at the get go for the coming year :

1) I will write without pretense, and often without propriety…so I apologize ahead of time, what can I say…I’ve always been a good girl at heart and some days it may be a stretch for me.

2) I will most definitely piss people off from time to time.  I can live with that, because I piss myself off more than anyone can ever know.

3) I truly believe that this is what God requires of me, in all seriousness, I do.

4) I am of sound mind, though of uncertain temperament.

5) Love is the root of everything…and is what compels my dance.

5) Understanding God doesn’t require perfection…just willingness and commitment.

6) I pray everyday, all day.

7) All God’s children are of consequence, not just those deemed so by society.

Angels in Disguise

holy spiritIn a world where so much goes wrong, it can be easy to wonder where all the heavenly help has gone. You know, you hear all those stories of mystical beings springing out of nowhere to save the day, never to be found again to be thanked, but I wonder…is that the exception for angelic behavior, or the rule? I know Jesus inferred many times that heralded help may not always be what it appears, wolves in sheep’s clothing, thieves in the night. So how do we know? Is it a good standard to escape the pain and difficulty that are almost essential to mastering the game of life? Is it logical to surmise that when things go our way, heaven is behind us and when they don’t we are being punished or plagued by a demon? I say unequivocally, no it isn’t logical…but then again neither is God. That isn’t to say that God can’t behave logically. God just isn’t defined by it. Logic is a human invention to help make sense of life and discover truth. It will never be a primary tool to uncover and understand the divine.

So then, it’s complicated. If heaven is beyond and not limited by our comprehension, how do we know when help is near…and more importantly when it’s not, and we are just being duped into deeper and deeper illusion? That’s when I rely on the teachings of Jesus. I truly believe in the realm of angels, because Jesus did. And while I may not understand all that entails, I do understand Jesus when he described the different kinds of people who would follow his words. ¬†The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is a perfect description of those who abide by his teachings: there are those who are more shallow and the words never take hold, those who don’t hold them deep enough and forget the minute things get rough, those whose would use them for their own thorny purpose and choke the life out the message, and finally, those who let them deep into the soul and nurture them till they bear fruit. I always pray that I am of the latter, but time and humility will tell.

That’s how I feel about angels. I am aware that I need a lot of help if I am to nurture this seed of faith that I’ve been given. In hindsight, though, my personal magical moments hardly ever consisted of being swooped up and saved by a heavenly messenger, rather it usually meant knowing I could survive the pain of heaven peeling away the darkness and replacing it something brighter and more pure, whatever the situation. Angels don’t make our lives easier, they help us make it better, and that sometimes means harder. They direct us down a better road, often the least traveled or obvious. They help us defy and ascend logic by demanding faith in that which we cannot yet see, but have been told to be real. Their presence is with us all the time, yet because of free will, requires our permission to assist in sowing the sacred soil of the soul. ¬†The fruit of which, is to extend an angelic hand to someone else, not necessarily to save, but to serve.

Where is the Love?

thunderIn all sincerity, I’m not sure whether it is having spring and summer occur simultaneously that has thrown my whole rhythm off, or the unbearable nature of events. from shootings, to the ravages of mother nature, to the quagmire of American politics. ¬†I’m sad much of the time…not the cry your eyes out kind, or the can’t get out of bed kind. ¬†The sadness I feel is like a dull ache based on recognizing a pattern that too many people seem to miss and not feeling like I can act effectually enough to stop it.

The pattern I speak of is fear, the kind of fear that is so deeply in-bedded in our nation that we have begun to suffer a rigor mortise of the soul, expressed in both subtle and obvious ways. ¬†Most obviously, it is expressed in the kind of partiality that blinds one to solutions because national pride lately is only celebrated in opposition to something else, such as guns, the government, climate change, the poor, etc. ¬†In more subtle ways is the complete lack of civil discourse between divergent views, and sense of entitlement that isn’t extended beyond a small group of like-minded individuals. ¬†I know I’m personally tired of being written off, or pigeon holed into a particular ideology that I certainly am not contained by because I ask questions and try to look at a situation from a multitude of perspectives. ¬†The political flavors of the moment are too honed into a blanket kind of hate, blame, and judgment of anyone who harbors a different idea than one’s own. Personal responsibility rarely enters the picture. What is most disturbing, though, is the religious imprimatur that is often used to justify such ignorance and fear.

Jesus says that the truth will set us free, and the way to truth is through him…and he is LOVE. ¬†Love will set us free. ¬†So let us practice love, first and foremost. ¬†Fear will be our demise, if we don’t utilize the powers we’ve been given… ¬†And so I offer a reminder of our greatest gifts: ¬†1 Corinthians 13:1-13


1
 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

2

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

3

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4

3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

5

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

6

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8

4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9

For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10

but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

13

5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

With Privilege, comes Responsibility

privilegeI tell my sons this all the time. ¬†Much of the lifestyle we live, is¬†earned and I am proud of that. ¬†As much, however, is not. ¬†I am always mindful of that I live in a rich country, have freedoms that others fought for, have the ethnicity that offers more opportunity to me than to others. ¬†I am gifted spiritually by Grace, and perfected by God’s sacrifice. ¬†I am NOT entitled to anything, except the opportunity to love as Jesus did and help bring light to a world that often seems dimmed by smoke and subterfuge…so that we cannot see that we are blessed, created by and vindicated by God.

I can’t help thinking that if we really believed that we were greatly privileged, and wore that greatness as a badge of honor, we would embrace the responsibility to love and honor each other so much more easily. ¬†We’ve been lulled into believing that we will never have enough, will never be enough, and the world’s acceptance matters. ¬†We should be better at it by now, you know, loving one another and being the Body of Christ. ¬†We are way too obsessed about gaining what is rightly ours…when nothing really is, in this temporal world, all is fleeting and none of it will matter in the next world.

I know it doesn’t mean we stop practically living in the world, but we would live differently if we really believed that we could. ¬†I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Sell all you have and follow me”. ¬†With the privilege of Grace, comes responsibility.